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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tyranny Defeated; Cruelty that Goes on

Initially I wanted this post to be about my visit on Thanksgiving Day to the beaches of Normandy, where Allied forces attacked German positions from June 6, 1944, to May 8, 1945.  It was a whole-day journey that included the Omaha, Juno and Gold Beaches, where tens of thousands of Allied troops were killed defeating Nazi Germany. We participated in a short yet dignified commemorating ceremony at the impressive memorial in the American military cemetery, which sits on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. We ended the day with too short a run in the nearby museum. 

I am used to visit military cemeteries: Since my first husband was killed in war, I have been visiting his grave annually during my trips to Israel.While my visits there are very personal and are naturally moving, there was nothing personal on my visit to the Normandy cemetery. But it was touching nonetheless. With thanks and gratitude my husband and I moved among the graves of soldiers of different ages, some as young as seventeen or eighteen, some killed on the first day of battle. Among the 9,387 graves there are thirty-three pairs of brothers and one pair of a father and his son. 149 graves are of Jewish soldiers.

I meant to write about that day a week ago, as soon as I returned home from our Normandy trip. Being caught with schoolwork I kept procrastinating until today. Then, just before I got ready to write my post I read about Gul Meena, the young Afghan “honor” victim who survived a brutal attack, presumably by her brother, who wanted to avenge her for seemingly being an adulterer, bringing shame on her family. I decided to write about her instead.

According to rumors , Gul, an eighteen year old married woman, ran away with another young man. When her family caught the two, they struck her with an ax 15 times, deeply slashing her face and head; the boy killed. Reportedly, in the hospital, where she is recovering against all odds, no one comes to visit or question her. Not her mother or father, not her tribe members, not the police, not anyone from the Ministry of Women's Affairs. 

Islam does not call for honor killing. Yet most if not all honor killings are committed by Muslims in Middle Eastern, African and Asian countries, and increasingly so in Western countries, including the US. The reason for the murders committed under this cultural custom vary: from killing girls who dress in western style to killing girls who run away from forced marriage or killing  rape victim, often due to incest. And while the majority of these killings are done by the male members of the women’s or girls’ families--most often the fathers or brothers of these female victims--recently in Pakistan fifteen-year old Anusha Zafar was killed by her mother for looking at a boy. The girl's pleas for mercy did not help. 

While there is no accurate statistics about honor killing, in 2011 The United Nations Population Fund estimated that over 5000 women are killed annually worldwide. Experts, however, believe that number to be too low. Tragically, this barbaric practice continues with minimal consequences even in countries where honor killing has been outlawed. And while civil society in some countries try to help potential victims, many times the hand of NGOs are tied because of cultural relativism. It is therefore  up to all governments to protect women against this practice. 

In 2009 UN Women, launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, which aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. During its first phase over five million people signed on to the campaign. But less than 80 government added their names to that platform.  In 2011, under this drive UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon directed attention to honor killing. He should lead the way to end it. 


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